An important opinion piece linking the school lunch program and childhood obesity to national security appears in Reuters. It was written by Retired Army Lieutenant General Samuel E. Ebbesen, a member of the national-security organization Mission: Readiness (@Mission_Ready). Mission: Readiness is a nonpartisan national security organization of retired generals and admirals who advocate for smart investments in America’s children.
Ebbesen argues that holding a firm course on the nation’s school lunch program is vital. The program has been under political fire from groups seeking to roll back some of the recent changes. Ebbesen writes:
There is, unfortunately, a misguided effort to retreat from these healthy foods. The move is driven by complaints that some students have trouble adjusting to the more wholesome meals and snacks. Some schools, these critics say, are struggling to find healthier ingredients and the necessary equipment and training to prepare the new meals.
Ebbesen argues that the food served in the national school lunch program has an impact that reaches far beyond the cafeteria, with profound implications in both civilian and military life.
…I am alarmed that nearly one in three young adults ages 17 to 24 is too heavy to serve in the military. Among active-duty service members, 12 percent are obese based on their height and weight, an increase of 61 percent since 2002. The military’s health system spends more than $1.5 billion annually treating obesity-related health problems and replacing troops discharged because they are unfit.
Ebbesen notes that obesity is a complex problem, but argues that school nutrition is one “obvious place” to focus on changing eating habits. He notes that a new study indicates that students like the healthier choices and are consuming more fruits and vegetables. He says that “hundreds of retired admirals and generals” supported the 2010 Child Nutrition Act.
In case you missed it, UC Food Observer’s Rose Hayden-Smith has penned an essay on food system reform as an issue of national security, which discusses historical wartime food security models, including the famed Victory Garden program.